Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Part 7 Lon's Cross Country 1981

Part 7
As I left the rolling state of Missouri I was looking forward to some flatter roads in Kansas. I didn’t really know what to expect as I traveled further west everyday. Kansas does have some good rolling hills and lots of trees in the eastern half of the state. The area is really quite scenic and I was enjoying my riding toward Wichita. As we neared the middle of the state I even got back on my six speed bike with one 52 tooth front chainring that I hadn’t ridden since the first day leaving New York City. I remember I picked up a rare east tailwind for about three hours one morning and cruised at over 25 mph for the first time since the start of the trip.

I had been following Route 54 since entering Missouri. I would stay on it for the next 400 miles across Kansas. Our route card said the next turn was three states away in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Route 54 was just a cement slab barely wide enough for two semi trucks to pass. It wasn’t a great road for cycling and we spent lots of time pulling off the road as trucks approached our support vehicle from the rear. For comparison most of Rt. 54 has been resurfaced and widened in 1995 and now has a good six foot shoulder.

As we neared Wichita a police escort met me at the city limits. I was ready for a similar police reception I had received crossing Indianapolis. The Wichita Police whisked me along at 23 mph again. The mid day temperatures neared 98 degrees. By the time I reached the western side of town I was pooped and hot. I wanted to stop and rest but I had a deadline for another teleconferencing call at the next available pay phone 20 miles up the road and only an hour to get there. I continued to time trial until I arrived at the pay phone inside a small gas station. Susan had the interview in progress when I arrived. I was dripping wet with sweat and panting hard when she handed me the phone. I talked for about 10 minutes and gave a report of where I was today and how I was feeling. After the interview I went back outside and got on my bike. The afternoon sun was still hot and a westerly wind was starting to blow in my face. The terrain was changing with fewer trees and long flat roads. The next two days would be some of the longest and most brutal of the whole record attempt.



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